Christmas is here again, and with it comes the joyful celebration of tradition and togetherness. More than just a day off from work, it’s an opportunity to relax and bond with family and friends.
However, Nigerians have always put a personal spin on everything which includes the way Christmas is celebrated.
In this report, our correspodent highlights the traditions that are peculiar to a Nigerian Christmas celebration though some are also common practices in some other countries:
- Christmas decorations
When it comes to decorations, Christmas always comes early in Nigeria. From the first of December, businesses, churches, companies, banks, parties involved or uninvolved, start pulling out their Christmas trees and decorations. You can hardly grab the door handle of a canteen without touching grass laced with Christmas designs. The Christmas decorations at your local grocery store will serve as a stark reminder of just how much money you’ll need to spend during the holiday season.
- Knock-outs and Bangers:
The match firecracker, known as knockout or banger, has emerged as the go-to unofficial notification system for the Nigerian Christmas season.
During the national holiday, the streets are typically quiet without the reverberating sounds of bangers, despite being illegal. Recently, fireworks have emerged as a new addition to the festive season’s celebrations. However, it is worth noting that bangers continue to hold their position as the traditional staple for Christmas night festivities. Nigerians showcase their spirit of adventure and unity as they gather to ignite a match, infusing Christmas with rhythm.
- Carol service
Christmas carols aren’t just for the church. Everyone gets together a few days before Christmas to eat, dance, play games, and sing. This tradition extends from schools to workplaces.
Some families consider it a socially unacceptable practice to skip Christmas morning services. Christians in Nigeria will not miss the Christmas service under any circumstances, even if they arrive at the church right as the preacher is ready to share the grace. A typical Christmas service is supposed to be very short so church members can go home to handle the next item on the list.
- Eating Chicken:
Chicken is the Nigerian Christmas mascot. Rich families can buy goats, ram, or cow, but a typical Nigerian Christmas is incomplete without the Chicken. The idea is that you eat a different and more exquisite food on Christmas day and the sweet old chicken has sufficed for generations.
- Christmas clothes and hair:
It is believed that you outgrow this but Christmas is mostly a sign of newness; a holiday that ushers you into a new season so it’s only fitting that you wear new clothes or make new hair. The Nigerian market is extra crowded during Christmas and the prices reflect that.
- Food Sharing:
What characterises the Christmas period is that Christians, who celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, give cooked food to non-Christians, especially in Northern Nigeria. This is always the most exciting part for children on Christmas morning because, as they deliver the food, they are always rewarded with cash. You can make an enemy for life if you don’t give that child some money.
- Father Christmas:
Not to be confused with Santa Claus, Father Christmas has evolved over the years from the scary man clad in red at Christmas parties to an eclectic dancer. Churches, schools, organisations, and even larger families would typically invite Father Christmas, who would then be put in a room and the kids would be brought to him to receive their gifts. But nowadays, he’s the life force of every party. At the end of it all, everyone is happy and ready for the new year.